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Tops Markets reduces losses in second quarter

Tops Markets significantly reduced its second-quarter loss because of lower compensation expenses, despite a nearly 1 percent drop in the Amherst-based supermarket chain’s sales.

Tops slashed its loss during the second quarter to $705,000, compared with a loss of $5.3 million a year ago, when the company absorbed more than $10 million in bonus payments and stock-based compensation.

The lower loss came even though Tops’ sales slipped to $596 million from $601 million, mainly because of the early Easter week, which fell during the first quarter this year while the normally slow week that follows the holiday fell in the second quarter.

Frank Curci, Tops’ president, said the company’s sales were weak during the first eight weeks of the quarter, but strengthened during July. “We believe we’re heading in the right direction,” Curci said during a conference call today.

Sales at Tops stores that have been open for at least a year fell by 2.8 percent, with more than a third of the decline stemming from the timing of the Easter holiday. Same-store sales also were hurt because of cutbacks in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program that provides low-income individuals and families with a monthly stipend for food purchases. Curci said most of the decline in same-store sales occurred during the first two months of the quarter.

Overall sales inside Tops stores dropped by 1.9 percent to $538 million, with revenues being bolstered by four supermarkets that the chain has acquired during the past year and the opening of two new ones since May 2013.

Tops’ revenues were bolstered by rising sales at its expanding network of gasoline filling stations at its stores. Gasoline sales grew by nearly 10 percent to $58.2 million from $53.1 million a year ago as the company added fueling stations at nine stores since May 2013 and the average price of the gasoline sold at those stations rose by 3 percent.

Tops now has 51 fueling stations and plans to open three more before the end of the year, said Rick Mills, Tops’ chief financial officer.